Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Technology & Islamic finance

The rise of the sukuk has posed a challenge on a technological level because of a lack of standardization. Because each sukuk must be individually reviewed by the Shari'ah board. According to Jamil bin Hassan, principal consultant at i-flex solutions, an IT consulting firm focusing on the financial services industry,
"No one had come up with good system to originate sukuk because the market is still small and there has not been the volume to justify the spend on technology".
The problem is aggrevated because the existing sukuk issues have occurred across a number of countries and therefore require even more specific treatment. The difficulties grow once more controversial products like derivatives. PricewaterhouseCoopers' Mohammed Amin says:
“There is a lot of debate about derivatives. I have seen lawyers who are experts in terms of standards stand up in conferences saying there is no such thing as Islamic derivatives, while others are setting up funds to transact derivatives. It is a grey area. The challenge is that to the extent that people have these structures, they regard these structures as proprietary and therefore they don’t publish or write about them, so it is very hard for other people to unpick them and evaluate whether they really are Shariah-compliant or not.”
I believe the last sentence of Mr. Amin's thoughts are germane to the entire industry where it is easy to find many firm's fatawa online which certify Shari'ah-compliance, but do not explain how the product works and why it is Shari'ah-compliant.

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